Top sports stories in 2017


No. 10 - Pearland's Brooke Botkin named Class 6A "Player of the Year" by the state sports writers.

Under normal circumstances, when the Texas Sports Writers release their All-State teams, including their Players of the Year for each class, the POY is usually a member of the team that claimed the state championship.

However, in one of the rare selections, and deservedly so, Pearland's Brooke Botkin was recently named the Class 6A Player of the Year by the state writers.

The USC signee has had a record-setting career for the Lady Oilers and very few players across the state could match her numbers as well as the influence she has had for Pearland head coach John Turner.

Botkin is a three-time MVP for the district and was recently named the 2016 Player of the Year by the Texas Association of Volleyball Coaches.

Botkin is a three-time All-State selection by the Texas Girls Coaches Association and the Texas Sports Writers Association and a two-time Greater Houston Volleyball Pre-season Player of the Year in addition to numerous national honors.

No. 9 - Pearland's Jaden Bellina captures third straight state gold swim medal

Pearland senior Jaden Bellina captured her third straight gold medal in the 200-yard Individual Medley to finish as the most decorated Pearland girl swimmer. Bellina won gold her sophomore and junior seasons in the 200-yard IM so she was successful in defending her title with a time of 2:00.51 which was good for 20 team points.

Bellina also claimed the bronze medal for two straight years in the 100-yard butterfly. The Auburn signee is the only Pearland girl who has been crowned a state champion as she now has three gold medals and two bronze medals.

No. 8 - Pearland's Steve Buckelew notches 700th career win

Pearland head coach Steve Buckelew has been at the helm of the Oilers basketball program for 21 years. He has experienced the highs and the lows as a head coach. But he does remember those monumental times such as getting his 700th victory at the expense of the Brazoswood Buccaneers 83-48 last week.

More importantly, the win also gave his team a share of the District 23-6A championship.

Pearland head coach Steve Buckelew was named as 23-6A "Coach of the Year" after leading the Oilers to their second best record in the history of the school at 30-6.

No. 7 - Lady Oilers capture 23-6A softball crown

The Pearland Lady Oilers captured the 2017 District 23-6A championship with a 12-2 mark and head coach Laneigh Clark was named the 23-6A "Coach of the Year" by her coaching peers.

Clark has been at the helm of the Pearland softball program since 1998 and has become one of the winningest Class 6A high school softball coaches in Texas.

The veteran coach led Pearland to the 2010 Class 5A state championship and she has seen her other teams advance to the state tournament in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2016. Last year's team fell in the 6A state title game 5-0 to Keller. She has seen her Lady Oilers capture four region crowns.

On April 1, 2016, Clark won her 600th career game when Pearland beat Pasadena 15-0 and on April 29, 2016, she won her 500th game when the Lady Oilers blanked North Shore 11-0. Clark is the winningest softball coach in PHS history.

Clark's current career record is 637-405-5 while her mark at Pearland HS is 530-169. Pearland finished 22-12 in 2017.

No. 6. - Pearland Lady Oilers win 23-6A basketball crown

It came as no surprise that Pearland head coach Lauren Martens would be named District 23-6A "Coach of the Year" after the second-year coach led the Lady Oilers to the district championship with the last title for Pearland coming 26 years ago.

Pearland finished 11-1 in league play to easily claim the crown while also advancing to the playoffs. The Lady O's picked up wins over Clear Falls and Atascocita before falling to 6A Region III finalist and No. 2 state-ranked Clear Springs.

The Lady Oilers finished with a sparkling 27-9 mark.

No. 5 - Friendswood's Christa Williams-Yates named top coach in county

Christa Williams-Yates is a softball legend at the University of Texas. When one walks into the UT Red and Charline McCombs Field, there is a full-size picture of the two-time Olympic Gold Medalist who, not only made a name in the college softball ranks, but also made her mark on the world-wide stage.

Williams-Yates helped lead the U.S. softball team to gold medals in 1996 in Atlanta and 2000 in Sydney.

The accomplishments by the second-year Friendswood coach are astounding and set an example for her young players to dream big in high school and the next level. It is obvious her past accomplishments have had a positive influence on her Lady Mustangs this past season as she led her young team to their first playoff appearance since moving up to Class 6A.

Not only did the Lady 'Stangs make the post-season, but they won their first playoff series against the Brazoswood Lady Buccaneers who have won a couple of state titles and are one of the most successful teams in state softball circles.

Brazoswood entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed out of District 23-6A while Friendswood was a No. 3 seed out of District 24-6A.

As the post-season awards were passed out from the District 24-6A coaches, they gave the "Coach of the Year" nod to Alvin head coach David McCorkle whose team won the league crown.

Unfortunately, sometimes the league coaches don't see the entire picture as to who might be the more deserving and whose team overcame the greatest odds at the end of the season.

No. 4 - Pearland's Tony Heath era sadly comes to an end

When it comes to putting in perspective what Tony Heath meant to the Pearland Oilers football program and the overall impact he had at Pearland High School and the Pearland community, the adjectives and emotions are difficult to put into words.

It was hard to imagine that the 2017 high school football season without Tony Heath, but that time sadly came, but not after reflecting that the Pearland football story is one of the greatest stories in Texas football folklore.

The numbers for Heath are spectacular as he closed out a 20-year coaching career with a 195-53 mark that included one state championship, one state finals appearance, four state semifinals, four regional titles, and eight shared or outright district championships.

Plus -- over 130 players signed letters-of-intent to continue their education and playing careers under Heath's guidance as a reward for their success on the field and in the classroom.

From 2000 to 2016, Pearland never missed the playoffs under a Tony Heath coached team and as they say, "the rest is history."

Since 1999, Pearland is the 10th winningest football team in the state of any class with a 188-38 record. The Oilers have averaged 10.58 wins per season since 2000.

Pearland is also the only school to have ever had three running backs among the Top 10 All-Time leading rushers in Class 5A Texas football history including No. 4 Anthony Evans (UH) with 6,192 yards, No. 6 Fozzy Whittaker (UT - Carolina Panthers) with 5,717 yards, and No. 10 Brandon Roberson (Northwestern) with 5,235 yards.

In 2001, Heath was named "Coach of the Year" by the Houston Chronicle joining Evans who was named "Player of the Year."

Coach Heath was named District 24-5A "Coach of the Year" in 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2010. He was District 22-5A "Coach of the Year" in 2008.

Heath was a Touchdown Club of Houston "Coach of the Year" finalist in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010 before he finally won the award in 2010 after Pearland won the state title.

No. 3 - Martin wins 100th football game at Manvel

Manvel head football coach as been at the school since it opened. The football team began playing varsity competition in 2008 after competing at the junior varsity level.

The team has only had one losing season and that was in the opening varsity season finishing 3-6. After a 5-5 season in 2009, the Mavs have continuously been, not only a force in the playoffs, but a team that has been state-ranked and considered a state championship contender.

While the Mavs have never brought home a state title, they got close in 2011 when they faced state-power and seven-time state champion Aledo (1998(3A/D1), 2009(4A/D2), 2010(4A/D2), 2011(4A/D2), 2013(4A/D2), 2014(5A/D1), 2016(5A/D2) in the Class 4A Div. II state finals only to fall short 49-28.

Martin has an overall record of 108-25. The Mavs have won six district championships, 24-4A (2011), District 22-5A (2012, 2013), District 23-5A (2016, 2017), and District 22-6A (2014). Martin has been named district "Coach of the Year" several times and has also received "Coach of the Year" honors from the Touchdown Club of Houston in 2011.

2008 - 3-6
2009 - 5-5
2010 - 11-3
2011 - 15-1
2012 - 11-2
2013 - 12-2
2014 - 13-1
2015 - 11-3
2016 - 13-1
2017 - 14-1

No. 2 - Manvel win 5A state track crown

The Manvel boys captured the 6A state track title in 2015 for the schools second state championship to go with the Manvel girls basketball state championship trophy.

The Mavericks almost won back-to-back track titles in 2016, but Desoto nipped them 54-50 thanks to a second-place finish in the 4x400 while Manvel didn't have a team in the final event.

But Manvel left little doubt for this year's state title as they ran past second-place Port Arthur Memorial 85 to 63.

Lancaster finished third with 34 points followed by Amarillo (28), and Waxahachie (26) to round off the top five teams. There were over 50 Class 5A schools competing for the state title.

No. 1 - Manvel drops heartbreaker in 5A Div. I state finals

The Mavs had one hand on the state championship trophy for 47 minutes and 26 seconds to be exact out of 48 minutes.

But with :34 seconds left in the game, Highland Park's Cade Saustad caught a 16-yard scoring strike from quarterback John Stephen Jones giving the Scots their first lead of the game 53-49.

In a minute and one second, the Scots marched 87-yards in seven plays to trim the lead to 49-46 with 2:06 left to play.

Then the game was actually reduced to one play. All 28,000 plus fans knew what was coming next. The only hope that was left for the Scots was to recover the upcoming onside kick.

If Manvel recovers, they return home as state champions. If Highland Park recovers, they still have a chance to pull a victory out of the jaws of defeat.

Of course, as they say, Highland Park got the bounce they needed to get the ball back as the 6-foot, five-inch Saustad leaped high in the air to snag the ball for the Scots at the Manvel 45. It was a loss of possession on the onside kick that allowed Highland Park to go another 45 yards in nine plays to take the only lead it needed 53-49.

With 28 seconds remaining on the clock, Manvel quarterback Kason Martin put his team on his back for a last-second chance to pull out a win. He connected with Deneric Prince for 22 yards and then Jalen Preston for 19 to put the Mavericks at the Scots 31 with 15 seconds left.

With two plays left in the season, Martin first aired it out to Preston again, who caught it right at the pylon but was ruled out of bounds.

On the second attempt, Martin again found Preston, this time in bounds. But Preston was 1-yard away from the goal line and 1-yard away from an undefeated season and a state title. Manvel finished 14-1 overall with the 5A Div. I state runner-up trophy.